Bad Things

Ruthie Nodd (Gayle Rankin, "Blow the Man Down") wants nothing to do with the dated, currently closed hotel she’s inherited from her grandmother, associating it with bad childhood memories.  But her girlfriend Cal (Hari Nef, "Barbie") is excited about putting it back in business and so the two invite Maddie (Rad Pereira, HBO's 'Betty') and Fran (Annabelle Dexter-Jones, HBO's 'Succession') to join them there for a weekend.  There are rumors the hotel is haunted, but it turns out to be the living who are capable of “Bad Things.”

Laura's Review: D+

This is the second of writer/director Stewart Thorndike’s planned trilogy on the power of motherhood.  Her first, 2014’s "Lyle," was basically an abridged, modern day remake of “Rosemary’s Baby” with a number of references to “The Shining” scattered throughout (a child’s exploration of new living space with a push toy, a pair of twins and an old group photo with a creepy, ghostly presence).  Despite being completely unoriginal, that film was pretty good, Gabby Hoffman’s portrayal of increasing paranoia eminently relatable.  Unfortunately, the only impression Thorndike’s sophomore film makes is that of a low-rent, semi-coherent take on “The Shining” with little scary about it.

There’s nothing terrifying or particularly insightful going on at The Comley Hotel in a movie quick to introduce a chainsaw only to for it to reappear in the film’s last act in murderous use in a shopping center parking lot where passersby inexplicably don’t appear to notice.  As for the ‘power of motherhood’ aspect, there are supernatural elements hinting at Ruthie’s neglectful mom (Molly Ringwald), who apparently made more time for her lover than her daughter, who once was so cold she lost feeling in her fingers.  Danny Torrance had a lot more to worry about. 

Two couples arrive at a charmless, rectangular block of a hotel with dated décor in what appears to be snow country.  There’s some chatter about hauntings, although the hotel’s five deaths in thirty years are casually dismissed as a pretty average statistic.  What’s more troubling is why Ruth’s fiancée would be pushing her to reopen a hotel that holds nothing but bad memories. 

But you wouldn’t necessarily know that as the foursome cavort in the hallways and partake of the pool, reopened for them by Brian (Jared Abrahamson), described as Ruth’s ‘mom’s friend who works here’ (he is far too young to be part of the childhood memories we see later, more a contemporary of the four friends).   Another oddity is that Ruthie and especially Cal also seem troubled that their friend Maddie brought Fran along, and we can understand Cal’s concern when Fran seduces Ruthie later that evening, although it is never clear what Fran’s history with the other three actually is.

Over the course of their stay, we will witness Ruthie’s gradual, yet inconsistent, mental breakdown; see two side-by-side women jogging, models who died at the Comley (shades of “The Shining’s” twins); see one of the four witness a breakfast room full of ghostly guests; witness Ruthie imagine a real estate meeting featuring mom dressed in red from head to hose; see Ruthie’s betrayal of Cal exposed and see the forbidden, formerly flooded, third floor where doors are rimmed in red (other floors are girly pink) and suite 324 is given ominous overtones with little payoff.

Director of photography Grant Greenberg keeps his camera snaking down corridors and around corners, but the effort lends no eerie vibe.  Rankin capably portrays a mental break, but her character is so unevenly written it has no real impact.   Little about these characters or their actions makes much sense.  Given “Lyle’s” Brooklyn death house and “Bad Things’” haunted hotel, Thorndike appears to be more on the road to a trilogy about poor real estate choices.

"Bad Things" begins streaming on Shudder and AMC+ on 8/18/23.